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Bilingualism and Code-Switching. Or … Why sometimes I’ll start a sentence in English y termino en Espanol. The Monolingual Default. Suzanne Romaine’s book Bilingualism She notes that ‘it would certainly be odd to encounter a book with the title Monolingualism’ (1995:1)

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Bilingualism and Code-Switching

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Bilingualism and code switching l.jpg

Bilingualism and Code-Switching

Or … Why sometimes I’ll start a sentence in English y termino en Espanol


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The Monolingual Default

  • Suzanne Romaine’s book Bilingualism

  • She notes that ‘it would certainly be odd to encounter a book with the title Monolingualism’ (1995:1)

  • But linguistic theory often seems angled towards monolingualism

  • E.g. Chomsky (1963:3) ‘concerned … with an ideal speaker-listener, in a completely homogenous speech-community, who knows its language perfectly.’

  • Problem with this: no-one knows all of one language perfectly.

  • Do you know what ‘stubs to can wall penetration welds’ are? What’s a ‘treble top’? ‘Tort’? (Harding-Esch & Riley 2003:22)

  • And, besides, what is a homogenous speech community? We’ve already seen that most societies are multilingual … and that most people grow up with more than one language


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Who is bilingual?

  • Definitions … everyone knows what bilingualism is … until we try and define it.

  • Bloomfield (1933:55): ‘native-like control of two or more languages’

  • Weinreich (1953:1): ‘the practice of alternately using two languages’

  • Haugen (1953:7) ‘the point where a speaker can first produce complete meaningful utterances in the other language'

  • Grosjean (1997): ‘the use of two (or more) languages in one's everyday life, not knowing two or more languages equally well and optimally’

  • Important to remember that bilinguals may be competent in speaking and listening, but less competent in reading and writing

  • Sometimes just listening (Diebold, 1964) … though this goes against Haugen’s definition – and most people can understand at least a few words in a foreign language (this is probably not bilingualism per se)

  • So … once again, monolingualism is relative, as with societal.


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Ways of becoming bilingual

  • Living in a bilingual community

  • Being brought up by bilingual parents, or parents with different language from wider community, or parents with different languages

  • Moving to a different country

  • Personal study/School/University

  • Marrying someone with a different language (Vietnam War, Thai Brides – usually women who learn)

  • Political (e.g. black South Africans learning Afrikaans to speak to police, speaking Mandarin in Taiwan public spheres)

  • Religious (Hebrew/Judaism, Church Slavic/Orthodox, Arabic/Islam)

  • Etc. – But all in language contact situations


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Early and Late Bilingualism

  • Late: e.g. at school, moving countries – after the age of 12 (roughly)

  • Early: moving countries, bilingual parents or multilingual community – before 12 (roughly)

  • Early bilingualism: research suggests that children are aware of two language systems very early on. E.g. bilingual children know they are learning two languages at 2 years old, will communicate the right language to the right person very early

  • Language systems develop as *two* languages, not a welded together version – the development of particular structures in both languages is identical to monolingual speakers of both languages

  • Late bilingualism: tends to be less complete, L1 accent tends to remain in L2, ‘interference’ and transfer of pragmatic and syntactic norms from L1 > L2, or L2 monolingualism causes ‘fossilisation’ of L1 (though this may be social)

  • Critical period hypothesis: younger children learn a L2 as if it was L1, even if not exposed to it from birth. Adults seem to find it hard to get rid of old habits. Also, one explanation (Chomsky!) is that adults have less/no access to Universal Grammar (theoretically, the underlying ability of humans to learn *any* language.


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Monolingual Perspectives on Bilingualism

  • Bilingualism is detrimental to intelligence:

  • `Several recent studies support earlier evidence as to the adverse effect of bilingualism upon obtained IQ" (Eichorn-Jones 1952).

  • `the general trend in the literature . . . has been toward the conclusion that bilinguists suffer from a language handicap when measured by verbal tests of intelligence" (Darcy 1953, 50)

  • Partially based on the fact that bilingual children tend to produce first sentence later than monolingual (but rapidly catch up so that progress is the same within weeks/months)

  • Bilingualism is ‘not knowing’ words in one language or another (thus neither language is ‘complete’)

  • Contradiction (but argued by the same camp): that bilingualism only happens with native ability, denigrating bilinguals competence

  • This can lead to language death – e.g. Chinook in the US: kids teased by village elders for making ‘errors’ in Chinook, decided to just switch to English and refuse to speak Chinook.


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Code-Switching I

  • Code-Switching

  • The juxtaposition within the same speech exchange of passages of speech belonging to two different grammatical systems or subsystems’ (Gumperz 1982:59)

  • Can be different languages, or varieties of one language, or even styles

  • But … must be joined together in the same speech act prosodically, semantic, syntax etc.

  • Speech act is a complete utterance (though not necessarily a sentence)


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Code-Switching II

  • Code-switching is not random – there are certain important structures where code-switches do / do not occur

  • Social reasons: participants in conversation, purpose, context etc.

  • Also syntactic reasons.

  • And not just ‘forgetting’ a word: code-switching is an active choice to achieve a social or linguistic aim through conversational strategy. (Active, though does not mean ‘conscious’)

  • Or in the case of Chinook, choosing not to code-switch …

  • So competence, not incompetence.

  • Weinreich’s ‘ideal bilingual’ switches appropriately to ‘changes in the speech situation, but not in an unchanged speech situation, and certainly not within a single sentence.’

  • But data suggests otherwise …


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Code-Switching III

  • Poplack, 1980 & Romaine 1995

  • Tag-switching: tags which can be inserted anywhere, which do not have too many syntactic limits. Tags in one language, with rest of utterance in other language.

    • E.g. Cantonese and English: ‘No problem, la.’

    • ‘So he asked me for money, znas#, and I had to say no, znas#’ (www.sfu.ca/~papappas/webpages/PPTfiles/L260_03/Lectures/L260_03tut1.ppt)

    • Usually discourse markers: ‘like’, ‘you know’ etc.

  • Inter-sentential: switching at either clauses or between sentences. Clauses/sentences are wholly in one language or another, and conform to the rules of both languages.

    • E.g. ‘Sometimes I start a sentence in English y termino en Espanol.’

    • A: Are you going to eat?

      B: Bu yao

  • Intra-sentential: switching in the middle of sentences or clauses, or even words. Syntactically risky – indicates competence in both languages. (Opposite to Weinreich.)

    • E.g. ‘Are you hui jia-ing’


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    Examples of blurred switching

    Glass eye (.) glass eye zenme shuo.

    ________________ ____________

    English Chinese

    But …

    Glass eye (.)glass eye zenme shuo

    _________ ___________________

    English [switch] Chinese

    So not only just switching between two languages, but syntactic structure. Also social context.


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    Summary

    • Romaine (1995) disagrees with an over-reliance on the syntactic categories of code-switching proposed by Poplack (1980)

    • It is all very well to develop a syntactic-grammatical model of code-switching

    • But code-switching is equally well understood as a social phenomena structured as a discourse-pragmatic strategy

    • It is a strategy of bilingualism

    • Bilingualism is not incompetence, but rather an enhanced competence

    • Code-switching by bilinguals is not fundamentally that much different from style-shifting by monolinguals, it just has a bigger linguistic repertoire to draw from

    • Ultimately, language is a means to ‘get things done’

    • And as long as the task is accomplished …


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